Republican losers we won’t miss in 2019

Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas, aka Mr. Ducky Pajamas, is no longer in Congress. The question is, how did he get elected in the first place?

The Blue Wave of November’s midterm elections brought a satisfying end to the public service (talk about an oxymoron) careers of many Republicans.

Of course, it wasn’t just the ones who lost at the ballot box. Many saw the proverbial writing on the wall and retired, choosing not to face voters again when their reelection chances were iffy at best. Some were forced out early in the face of scandal.

Some Republicans, including several in Donald Trump’s Cabinet, resigned, were forced to resign, were fired, or even were fired via tweet.

These GOP losers were at all levels of government and influence, from local and state government to national offices. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who announced early that he was calling it quits after flailing around for three years on the job with little to show for it, was second in line to the presidency, behind Vice President Mike Pence. Think about that for a minute.

There are way too many Republican losers to mention. So let’s take a look at just a handful of those in the 2018 edition of the GOP Hall of Shame. And beware: Vampires can rise from the dead.

Kris Kobach. The outgoing Kansas secretary of state lost the governor’s race to Democrat Laura Kelly. And there was much rejoicing.

In November, the man whom Jeet Heer of The New Republic called the face of voter suppression went down in flames, losing by nine points. In the red state of Kansas, no less.

What made Kris Kobach so evil? It was his relentless chipping away at voting rights, always for those who were more likely to vote Democratic. Chipping away, hell — the guy used a sledgehammer with his constant lies about “voter fraud.” And he did it all with a self-satisfied smirk on his face.

Kobach was poised to take his voter suppression battle nationwide when he was named as the leader of Donald Trump’s sham voter fraud boondoggle, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, but luckily for the rest of us, it was disbanded before it could do any real damage.

He did enough damage just in Kansas. His voter suppression work there probably made the difference in the 2014 gubernatorial race, in which the unpopular Sam Brownback won reelection, despite the fact that many Republican officials backed the Democrat, Paul Davis.

This will serve as Kobach’s legacy, via a story at Vox:

Kansas passed laws at Kobach’s urging requiring people not only to show photo ID at the polls but also to prove their citizenship when registering to vote. The law was thrown out in court earlier this year, and Kobach — a former law professor — was ordered to take a law class on evidence and rules of procedure.

“Ordered to take a law class on evidence and rules of procedure.” That had to burn, but it couldn’t have happened to a bigger jerk.

Scott Walker. Second to Kobach going down, the sweetest loss on Election Night belonged to the Wisconsin governor. A Google search of “Good riddance Scott Walker” brings up the same headline from a disparate group ranging from unions to Reddit groups to Wisconsin Democrats to those Walker tried to get fired.

Tales of Walker’s stupidity and sins are many. He was so ineffective as a Republican presidential hopeful that he dropped out of the race in September 2015, two months after he announced his bid and after he tanked during debates. And remember the time a New York blogger had him believing he was on a phone call with one of the Koch brothers?

Voter suppression? Check. Union-busting? Check. Here’s just a partial list by Paste Magazine of other nefarious Walker deeds:

Walker’s frequently been pointed to as the cause for large amounts of student debt. His state’s been ranked in the top ten worst for graduates with debt. He’s appointed openly homophobic judges and even taken money from lobbyists for legalized marijuana, only to turn around and suggest that the impoverished should be drug tested.

On his way out the door, he signed anti-Democratic legislation passed by an anti-Democratic legislature to limit the powers of Democratic successors. Way to cement your bad reputation, Governor.

Speaking of governors, if you’re from Illinois, like we are, savor these four words: Former Governor Bruce Rauner.

Paul Ryan. There’s so much to say (and none of it good) about the Eddie Munster lookalike. There were his multitude of sins and peccadilloes: his evil tax cuts for the rich; his nonexistent plan to replace the Affordable Care Act; his “expertise” as a financial policy wonk, which the media will probably fall for again; and his unearned reputation as a budget hawk.

All of that is disgraceful. For me, though, the worst thing was his constant and blatant lying, even about matters he had no need to lie about and that could be fact-checked so easily. It’s what earned him the moniker Lyin’ Ryan. While all politicians stretch the truth, Lyin’ Ryan took it to a whole new level (except for Donald Trump, of course).

Why lie about running a marathon in less than three hours, when he was finally forced to admit that he had shaved an hour off his running time? Why claim that President Obama was responsible for the closure of a GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, when its closure was announced seven months before Obama took office? Why continue to claim that GOP tax “reform” would mean Americans could file their tax returns on a form the size of a postcard, when it’s so obvious that will never happen?

Politifact compiled a list of Ryan’s lies, and it’s surely far from complete. On the day he announced his retirement in April, many media outlets published similar stories, such as this one from Vox in which Matt Yglesias called Ryan “the biggest fraud in American politics.”

Trump Cabinet secretaries. Not all members of Trump’s Cabinet were previous office holders, but most were partisan Republicans, and several are gone. Think of most of those as rats fleeing a sinking ship — except that they were flying high on the public dime. HHS Secretary Tom Price was the first to go, in 2017, but he certainly wasn’t the last.

  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The thing we’ll miss most about Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is Kate McKinnon’s portrayals of him on Saturday Night Live. Outside of that, not much—he tried to institute regressive policies on civil rights abuses, public safety complaints, rights of transgender individuals, “zero tolerance” on illegal border crossings, immigration crackdowns, recreational marijuana laws, and much more. Trump was so angry about Sessions’ recusal over the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia that he publicly berated Sessions for months and kept hinting at firing him before Sessions was forced to resign after the midterms. There were hints that he might run for his old Senate seat in 2020 to represent Alabama, but apparently he’s shooting down those rumors. Maybe he just doesn’t have the support after his spectacular fall from grace.
  • EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. Never has there been a more egregious and more pitiful grifter than Scott Pruitt, who was forced out as EPA chief. It’s hard to choose what was the worst thing about him. His sweetheart condo deal for $50 a night? The 24/7 security detail for $4.6 million? The $43,000 soundproof booth he had installed — and reportedly didn’t even use? Actually, his worst case of malfeasance was against the environment itself, practices he continued since the days when he was the attorney general of Oklahoma, backed by big oil money.
  • Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. The choice of a freshman Republican Montana congressman to be a Cabinet secretary seemed odd until it was revealed that Donald Trump Jr. pushed the Zinke choice — the two share an avid love of hunting. Besides his expensive travel habits (sometimes for partisan trips), Zinke was facing several corruption charges before he announced his resignation, and he still might be investigated by House committees that will soon led by Democrats. But there will be no more horse rides through the streets of Washington, $139,000 doors in his office, or the Interior secretary’s special flag that flew when he was in residence.

GOP House members we won’t miss. Democrats picked up 40 seats in the midterms. Here are some Republicans who resigned early, chose not to run for reelection, or ran and lost — and deservedly so:

  • Peter Roskam. Roskam was one of two main authors of the 2017 GOP tax overhaul (the other was Erik Paulsen in Minnesota, who also lost). Republicans thought they would ride that plan to victory, but they badly misjudged the public’s lack of support for a plan that delivered chump change to most people while slashing taxes for the wealthy. Among Roskam’s problems were his support for the law’s cap on state and local tax deductions, which hurt his suburban constituents. He was forced to soften his support, but the damage was done. Besides, Roskam has been an overall jerk since his days in the Illinois Legislature.
  • Dana Rohrabacher. The Republican from Orange County, California, was often referred to as Putin’s favorite congressman, but he spread his influence to right-wing leaders and lobbyists throughout the globe. “For much of the past decade, he has served as the voice of foreign autocrats in Congress,” wrote Anne Applebaum in The Washington Post. Since he lost his seat after 15 terms, he can now visit them in person overseas.
  • Trey Gowdy. The South Carolina Republican will forever be remembered as the congressman who wilted under Hillary Clinton’s 11 hours of testimony about a terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans. His two-year probe as head of a select House panel on Benghazi cost $7 million and produced an 800-page report that said basically nothing. He decided to leave office, and as his congressional career wound down, he finally admitted, “I don’t have a lot to show for the last seven years.”
  • Darrell Issa. The California congressman’s career turned ugly when he led pointless investigation after pointless investigation into the Obama administration as chair of the House Oversight Committee. He chose to retire rather than face a tight reelection fight. But he’s not going away just yet: Trump nominated him to lead the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.
  • Blake Farenthold. Maybe the Texas Republican wasn’t a big mover and shaker in the House, but he’ll always be remembered as the grinning guy in the photo wearing duck pajamas with his arm around a lingerie model. And as the congressman who was finally forced to resign after a series of sex-related scandals, some of which had settlements paid to staffers out of public funds.

Republican senators we won’t miss. Let’s hope the door hits them on the way out.

  • Jeff Flake. The retiring senator from Arizona comes across as a nice, pleasant guy. But the media constantly bent over backward trying to paint him as an independent voice of moderation who wasn’t afraid to challenge Trump or the powers that be. The trouble was that Flake was all talk and very little action. When it was time to vote, he almost always voted the party line. The Phoenix Times listed 15 Times Jeff Flake Criticized Trump, Then Nothing Happened. His decision to retire had more to do with the fact that he was likely to lose to a primary challenger than a principled ethical stance.
  • Bob Corker. Like Flake, the Tennessee Republican knew he might face a tough primary battle. LIke Flake, he liked to talk big but vote how Mitch McConnell wanted him to. Who cares if he gets into a Twitter war with Trump now, telling everyone it’s time to #AlertTheDaycareStaff? The damage has been done.
  • Orrin Hatch. It’s been a long time since the long-serving Utah Republican practiced bipartisanship. He was forced to express regret about a comment that he “didn’t care” if Trump broke the law. As he delivered his farewell address to Congress, he was being ripped on Twitter and in letters to the editor back home as being a spineless dinosaur. Since he’ll soon have more time on his hands, perhaps he can go back to his songwriting career.

Of course, some of these has-beens are likely to enter the public arena again. Some will run for a different office. Many will earn big bucks on the speaking circuit. Some will return to the world of finance, where they’ll figure out new ways to fleece consumers and pick people’s pockets. Some are bound to show up on the airwaves as political commentators on Fox and (when the network feels it must have some “balance”) CNN. No doubt some will join right-wing think tanks to develop new tools for voter suppression, new ways to gerrymander districts, and new laws to trample on women’s and minority rights. And some will form new political action committees to elect even more onerous Republicans.

As the old country song twangs, “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away?”

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Dec. 30, 2018.

 

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